Initiative 1125 is the Wrong Vision for our Transportation Future

Did you know that only eight states in the country have a higher percentage of functionally obsolete bridges than Washington? The fact is, over the past two decades, the Puget Sound region’s transportation infrastructure has failed to keep pace with the region’s population and job growth.

Enhanced mobility across the region is an important local priority for Microsoft. With nearly 40,000 employees based in the Puget Sound region, the company and our people need an efficient transportation system. It is important to our own business, and it’s important to economic growth, job creation and the quality of life across our state.

As a company, we’re opposing Initiative 1125 on the Washington state ballot this November because it would seriously undermine improvements to our transportation infrastructure, unfairly eliminate options for commuters, and impact the state’s economy.

Tim Eyman’s I-1125 would change our state’s tolling policy in a number of ways. It would place new, often unrealistic restrictions on how, when and where tolls may be used to fund transportation projects. It would require politicians, not independent experts, to set tolling rates, making us the only state in the country to introduce political risk into its tolling policy. According to a report for the State Treasurer, this uncertainty would drive up the cost of issuing transportation bonds by about 18 percent, either leading to a further increase in tolls and taxes for Washingtonians or preventing much needed projects from moving forward.

I-1125 would also make it harder to build a healthy overall road network because it would bar the state from using toll revenue from one road to make improvements on roads that connect to it. And it would prohibit the use of different tolling rates for different times of day, and prevent the state from adding new High Occupancy Toll lanes, even though these have helped reduce congestion elsewhere. Put together, all this would risk stalling progress on much-needed projects across the state.

Of real concern to Microsoft, restricting the use of tolling to support transportation investment would put the 520 bridge replacement at risk. We’ve worked as a company to advocate and contribute to improvements in the 520 and I-405 corridors. We even operate our own commuter bus system, with 64 buses that carry more than 2,500 employees per day, taking 1.9 million trips off the road since service began in September 2007. The company serves on Gov. Chris Gregoire’s Connecting Washington Task Force, which is charged with developing the next 10-year investment and funding strategy for our state’s transportation system. And we’ve helped pay for a large share of the cost of building the 36th Street Overpass.

In part, as a result, new projects in recent years have improved the flow of traffic for employees and families that travel from our campus east on 520 to Woodinville and parts of Redmond. However, the traffic to the west of the campus between Redmond and Lake Washington continues to be plagued by congestion and, sometimes, outright gridlock. Even worse, the 520 bridge is approaching the end of its useful life. It opened 48 years ago, and everyone agrees that it needs to be replaced. This is about more than congestion. It’s an issue of safety.

Last year, in part reflecting the active involvement of our employees in sharing their views with elected officials in Olympia, the state made important decisions to move forward with the tolling needed to replace and expand the 520 bridge. Construction has now started on building the new pontoons and on eastside improvements.

We believe strongly that the passage of I-1125 risks rolling back much of this hard-earned progress, negatively impacting both the quality of life and the economy of our state. As a company, Microsoft stands committed to helping advance improvements in the region’s transportation infrastructure.

However, Tim Eyman’s I-1125 is the wrong vision for our transportation future. Please vote “No”.

About the Author

General Counsel & Executive Vice President, Legal and Corporate Affairs, Microsoft

Brad Smith is Microsoft's General Counsel and Executive Vice President of Legal and Corporate Affairs. He leads the company's Department of Legal and Corporate Affairs (LCA), which has approximately 1,100 employees located in 55 countries. Mr. Smith is responsible for the company's legal work, its intellectual property portfolio and patent licensing business as well as its government affairs and philanthropic work. He also serves as Microsoft's corporate secretary and its chief compliance officer. Mr. Smith currently co-chairs the board of directors of Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) and is the chair-elect of the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity. In Washington state, Mr. Smith has served as chair of the Washington Roundtable, a leading Washington state-based business organization, and he has advanced several statewide education initiatives.